• Another blast of winter headed for Big Bear May 26, 2019
    Someone needs to inform Mother Nature that it's almost June.
  • FYI is here May 25, 2019
    Don't forget to browse the latest issue of FYI published by the Big Bear Grizzly
  • Delays possible on Highway 330 to Big Bear May 24, 2019
    Caltrans work on the bridge rail replacement on State Route 330 could cause significant delays for those traveling to Big Bear during the holiday weekend. Motorists are advised to use alternate routes if possible.
  • Summer survey May 22, 2019
    Summer, at least we hope, is around the corner. What's your favorite summer beverages? Help us out by taking this short survey, and your answers may appear in the June issue of Big Bear Now magazine.
  • May snow not unheard of in Big Bear Valley May 22, 2019
    It’s almost Memorial Day, do you know where spring is?
  • School district weighs options for Chautauqua May 22, 2019
    When the 2019-20 school year begins in August, the student population at Chautauqua High School is expected to drop as much as 50 percent. It’s just one of several reasons the Bear Valley Unified School District is exploring relocation of…
  • 15 minutes May 22, 2019
    In the United States that’s the measure of time for someone to die in an alcohol-related traffic collision. It’s a message the California Highway Patrol sends to students and parents through its Every 15 Minutes program each year.
  • Fire department trading cards as education tool May 22, 2019
    Big Bear Fire Department wants to educate children on the fire service. To achieve this goal, the department has launched a motivational educational program using fire department trading cards.

History

Big Bear was originally inhabited by the Serrano Native American tribe. In the 1800’s and prior, the area was teaming with huge grizzly bears and other wildlife. As today, it was a winter wonderland in cold months and a sunny, warm spot in the summer. These days it is best knows as the most popular Southern California ski destination, as well as a great place for summer sports like boating, camping, and fishing. While many people contributed to the popularity of the now year-round mountain resort, a few include:

In 1845, the mayor of little Los Angeles, Benjamin Wilson, discovered Big Bear Valley. He was chasing an Ute Chief named Walkara into the Santa Ana Canyon of San Bernadino. There, high into the forest, Wilson and his team found a pristine village teaming with wildlife, namely grizzly bears. For this reason, the area was called Big Bear Valley.

In the 1860’s, William Holcomb was hunting for bear. He unexpectedly stumbled onto gold in the valley. This began Southern California’s largest gold rush and brought an influx of residents to the area.

In 1888, the first Big Bear area hotel was built in 1888. The builder, Gus Knight, was just 21 years old. He felt sure the lake would bring visitors to the area.

In 1912, a resident named Kirk Phillips created a bus line that ran from San Bernadino below into the mountain region of Big Bear Valley. He got the idea while on a trip in New York City where he saw a bus line created by rows on trucks where passengers sat. His bus line to Big Bear was nothing fancy– just trucks with several rows of seats. This route, called the Mountain Auto Line, greatly increased the numbers of people travelling back and forth to Big Bear. The trip previously took two days using carriages.

In 1921 the Stillwells Lodge and Ballroom was opened by Carl and Mamie Stillwell. It quickly became famous throughout Southern California for dancing and live music by the lake. Visitors could take a swim in the pool, dine at the restaurant, play a game of tennis, or take a boat ride on the lake all from the same place. Popular bands played on site constantly, so this was a place everyone wanted to see.

Also in 1921, another soon-to-be famous landmark opened–Pan Hot Springs Hotel. Emile Jesserun bought dozens of acres of land that included a local hot spring and built the hotel on this land. This was the area’s first major resort. It was destroyed by fire in 1933.

In 1947 Tommy Tyndall, a young but expert skier, started ski schools and the Big Bear Winter Club. He decided to open a ski resort and found an ideal spot east of Big Bear Lake. In 1952, this site became the now famous Snow Summit.

During the 1950’s, Big Bear changed from a summer resort area to a year-round resort due to the growing popularity of downhill skiing. In the 1980’s snowboarding debuted and this sport also gained popularity, as did Big Bear where people flocked to do it from Southern California and beyond. Read about or, even better, visit the Big Bear Museum. This historical landmark is located in Big Bear City at the eastern end of Big Bear Airport on Greenway Drive.